Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

Big West Tournament starts on Thursday

Now it really counts.

After a regular season of ups and downs, the University of Hawai’i basketball team will try to stay on an upward trend for three days in Anaheim, Calif., this week.

Hawai’i finished the regular season at 17-12 overall and 8-8 in the Big West Conference. The eight-team Big West Conference Tournament is set for March 8-10 at the Honda Center in Anaheim. It is a single-elimination tournament, and the champion gets the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament the following week.

The Rainbow Warriors are the No. 6 seed and will face No. 3 UC Irvine in a quarterfinal game on Thursday. It is scheduled to start at 4:00 p.m. (Hawai’i time/6:00 p.m. Pacific Time). Live streaming video will be available online at www.FOXSportsGO.com and it will also be televised on a delayed basis, starting around 8:30 p.m. (Hawai’i time / 10:30 p.m. Pacific Time) on FOX Prime Ticket.

Here is a brief synopsis of the four quarterfinal games:

No. 1 UC Davis (21-9, 12-4) vs. No. 8 UC Riverside (9-21, 4-12), 10:00 a.m.

After all the talk about ties and tiebreakers entering the final week of the regular season, the Aggies emerged above the field. A month ago, that would have seemed impossible, given that star player Chima Moneke was on an indefinite suspension that apparently will keep him inactive for the remainder of the season.

Instead, UCD has gone 6-2 without Moneke, including two double-overtime wins and a triple-OT victory. Junior point guard TJ Shorts II – all 5 feet 9 of him – has come up big during the stretch run to first place. He is averaging 15.2 points, 4.3 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game, and was rewarded with the Big West Conference Player of the Year award this week.

UC Riverside started the Big West season 0-8, but finished 4-4, including upset wins over Hawai’i and Cal State Fullerton. On February 24, the Highlanders proved just how dangerous they can be in a 64-63 road loss at UC Davis. A full-speed driving layup by Shorts with less than a second remaining won it for UCD.

No. 4 Cal State Fullerton (17-11, 10-6) vs. No. 5 Long Beach State (15-17, 9-7), 12:30 p.m.

This is all you need to know about the Titans: they are the only team to beat No. 1 seed UC Davis twice this season. They also have the regular-season scoring champion in 6-3 junior guard Kyle Allman Jr. (averaged 21.6 points per game against Big West teams).

The 49ers also boast one of the conference’s top individual players in 6-7 senior forward Gabe Levin, who averaged 21.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game against Big West opponents.

The game will feature two of the conference’s top offensive teams. Long Beach State led the Big West in points per game (76.6), while Fullerton led the Big West in field goal percentage (.490). The teams split the regular-season series, with each team winning at home by nearly identical scores – Long Beach State won 81-73 in Long Beach; Fullerton won 81-71 at Fullerton.

No. 3 UC Irvine (16-16, 11-5) vs. No. 6 Hawai’i (17-12, 8-8), 4:00 p.m.

How will the Anteaters respond after heartbreaking loss at home in what amounted to the regular-season championship game, 90-84 in double-overtime, to UC Davis on Saturday? With the loss, UCI dropped to the No. 3 seed to face a Hawai’i squad that has to be considered a tougher draw than UC Riverside or Cal Poly (which UCI could have faced as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed).

The Anteaters are the best statistical defensive team in the Big West in numerous categories, including points allowed (67.3) and opponent field goal percentage (.389). They also have the two-time Big West Defensive Player of the Year in 6-10 junior forward Jonathan Galloway, and a first-team All-Big West Conference selection in 6-8 sophomore forward Tommy Rutherford.

In a rare – but middling – accomplishment, Hawai’i split the regular-season series with each of the eight other teams in the Big West. The Warriors beat UCI, 62-61, in Irvine, then lost to the Anteaters, 66-57, in Honolulu.

No. 2 UC Santa Barbara (22-8, 11-5) vs. No. 7 Cal Poly (9-21, 4-5), 6:30 p.m.

The Gauchos are the top turnaround team in NCAA Division I this season. They won just six games last season, and did not even qualify for the 2017 Big West Conference Tournament.

UCSB is also the only team with two players on the 2018 All-Big West Conference first team: sophomore guard Max Heidegger and senior forward Leland King II. Heidegger is averaging 19.4 points per game, and leads the Big West with 90 3-pointers. King is averaging 15.9 points per game and a Big West best 10.5 rebounds per game.

Cal Poly is the most prolific 3-point shooting team in the Big West (8.8 makes per game, 24.3 attempts per game), and also has the best free throw percentage in the conference (.773). Those statistics would indicate a “shooters’ chance” in every game. However, the Mustangs also rank near, or at, the bottom of the Big West in several defensive categories, including points allowed (77.9 in conference play) and opponent field goal percentage (.470).

Way back on January 4, Cal Poly opened the Big West season with a stunning 80-79 win at UCSB. The Gauchos came back with a resounding 86-61 win at Cal Poly this past Saturday.

Note that the four winners of Thursday’s quarterfinals will be re-seeded for the semifinals. The highest-remaining seed will play the lowest-remaining seed in one semifinal, and the two middle-remaining seeds will play in the other semifinal.

Here is a list of the number of Big West Conference Tournaments won by each team, with year of last championship in parentheses:

5 – Long Beach State (2012)
3 – UC Santa Barbara (2011)
2 – Cal State Fullerton (2008)
1 – Cal Poly (2014)
1 – CSUN (2009)
1 – Hawai’i (2016)
1 – UC Davis (2017)
1 – UC Irvine (2015)
0 – UC Riverside

1 Comment

  1. Every team has weakness and UH has just a good shot as anybody else. The year UH won this tournament, everybody knew there was only one or two other teams to worry about. This year, I think any of the top six has a equal chance and that includes UH.

    Lets Go Bows!

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